Becky Bollinger is receiving an IMDA educational grant to help pay for private harp lessons and for the cost of a wire strung harp, an instrument that is purely Irish in origin. Becky has been playing the harp for three years as well as the tin whistle. Even though she first explored the Irish community through dance, she was soon drawn to the music. As she says, “To a dancer, the music is what calls us to dance.” She began by playing on a nylon harp, but last fall she switched to a wire strung harp. As her harp instructor, Chad McAnally says, “Clearly Becky is not allergic to hard work or afraid of challenge. […] Despite the outward similarities of the two harps, this is much like switching from the fairly user-friendly tin whistle to far more demanding uilleann pipes—not an easy feat even for an adult.”
Becky has been an active part of the Irish community in the Twin Cities for many years. She began by taking céilí dance lessons at the University of St. Catherine (St. Kate’s) when she was a student there. Becky continued practicing Irish dance with Scoil na d’Tri as part of their step dancing performance team, as well as advancing to the level of Preliminary Championship competing individually. Becky also joined two other dance groups, the Knocknagow Irish Dancers and the Mooncoin Céilí Dancers; as Becky said, “Both groups exemplify what I have found to be common in the Irish community: a group of social people who like to have fun, but are very serious about perfecting their art.” Becky most recently continued dancing as part of the adult class at the O’Shea Irish Dance School. For the last three years, she has arranged the adult Irish performance at the Festival of Nations, highlighting the variety of styles present in Irish dance.
Becky loves both Irish music and dance, saying she could not imagine choosing between them. She also balances a demanding full-time job with developmentally challenged adults along with volunteering for the Center for Irish Music and the Celtic Junction. Becky’s generosity also shines in her group harp lessons; she never hesitates to help the younger students to improve their music skills, such as sight-reading and tuning. She also extended her teaching skills at Scoil na d’Tri where she taught the adult beginner class for six years. This fall, Becky hopes to join one of the Center for Irish Music’sAdult Ensembles to begin sharing her performance skills as a musician with the Irish community as well. McAnally adds, “Becky’s keen interest and clear talent for the Irish harp, an instrument rescued from oblivion, is no less meaningful or important for returning the old harp back to living tradition” through her desire to share Irish music on the wire strung harp. IMDA is pleased to be able to help Becky continue on her journey as a talented musician who is committed to keeping traditional Irish music alive in our community.
Irish dancer Amy Green has been dancing since she was very young, first studying ballet before being drawn to Irish dance. Amy was one of those younger siblings who went along to dance class and hoped that her sister’s teacher would play games with the class at then end so she could get to dance with them. Amy began in Irish dance with Brenda Buckley at Scoil na dTri and now dances with Cormac O’Se at O’Shea Irish Dance. Cormac tells us that “Amy’s love of this exacting and technical art (Irish dance) shines through, as she would dance for a group of nursing home residents the same way she would dance for a panel of judges – with joy, exuberance and with a skill that can only be won through hard work and perseverance.” Amy will be competing in solo and céilí at the North American National Irish Dance Championships this summer.
But even before she began as a dancer, Amy begged her mother Kathleen (who plays with Heritage, the Twin Cities Céilí Band, Dunquin, and O’Rourke’s Feast, and in sessions around town) for the chance to learn to play the violin – she says she wanted to be like her Mom, who has played the violin since she was 10. So Amy started as a Suzuki violin student at the tender age of 4. She’s played classical violin for those many years but her mom really couldn’t get her interested in traditional Irish music until more recently. And now she’s learning tunes and playing a bit with her mom’s groups.
Amy, who is from Minneapolis, is receiving an IMDA Educational Grant to help with tuition for the Catskills Irish Arts Week in July in East Durham, NY. Amy will be joining her mom for the Catskills week. (Catskills Irish Arts week assembles a terrific faculty of teachers and entertainers who make the Catskills Irish Arts Week the place to be for serious fans of Irish traditional music and dance and for those who want to learn more and improve their skills in a wonderful social setting with an Irish Village atmosphere. The week includes daily lectures, concerts, ceilis and workshops with an outstanding group of traditional musicians, covering an incredible array of instruments. Check out Catskills Irish Arts Week on Facebook.)
Amy is looking forward to learning techniques for playing traditional Irish music and hopes to polish her skills as a performing musician. And she’s delighted to be able to participate in dance workshops with the legendary Danny Golden.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this dedicated young woman pursue her interests in traditional Irish music and dance.
Emiliano Morales of Minneapolis is quite an accomplished musician for one so young – he is just starting his senior year in high school and has been playing the violin since he was five years old. Emiliano studies fiddle as well as whistle and flute at the Center for Irish Music and plays in their award winning Advanced Youth Ensemble. He became interested in the uilleann pipes when he heard CIM instructor (and former IMDA Educational Grant Recipient) Patrick McCormick playing at a concert.
Emiliano tells us that he has been influenced by the playing of his fiddle teacher (Jode Dowling) and his pipe teacher (Patrick) and impressed “with the level of skill and beauty they showed in their playing, something that [he] found was not present in classical music.” Opportunities to play and learn from world-class musicians at the Center for Irish Music and the Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School have played a big part in Emiliano’s improved technique and musicality.
Emiliano will use his grant to help with the purchase of a ½ set of uilleann pipes. He has been playing with a starter set of uilleann pipes and has been working to master the complex coordination of the bag and the chanter. While he has been playing in class with borrowed pipes, his teacher told him that he was ready to move to the ½ set and needed that step to improve his playing.
With the student ensemble, Emiliano plays the fiddle and sings. He hopes to add tunes on the uilleann pipes, “an instrument not commonly seen in student ensembles because of the time it takes to learn and master.” And he hopes to become as proficient on uilleann pipes as he is on fiddle. Emiliano’s goal is to participate on pipes (as well as fiddle and with the ensemble) in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil in St. Louis in 2013.
It warms the heart of all of us who love this traditional music and especially these pipes to have a young musician say “The pipes offer a unique sound and texture that completely changes the meaning of Irish music; they change the mood of any room they are played in, mysterious and enveloping. I want to find the hidden power and emotion that lies within every Irish tune, and the pipes are my key.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to be able to help Emiliano continue to grow and develop as a musician and as a contributing member of our community.
This is the seventh year of the IMDA Educational Grant program. This grant to Emiliano is noteworthy for all of us with IMDA because Patrick McCormick, Emiliano’s pipe instructor, was an IMDA Educational Grant recipient back in 2006. Patrick used his grant for the purchase of a set of uilleann pipes – and he said in his application that he hoped to become accomplished enough to teach! In six short years, the program has come full circle.
Kelly Pearson of Golden Valley is receiving an IMDA Educational Grant to help her compete in the North American Irish Dance Championships in Chicago this summer. Kelly has been dancing for 10 years, first with Scoil na dTri Irish Dance Academy and now with Corda Mor Irish Dance. In that time, Kelly has performed in a wide range of venues, including IMDA’ s St. Patrick’ s Day Irish Celebration and Day of Irish Dance, Irish Fair Minnesota, countless nursing homes, schools and community events.
Kelly has loved Irish dance since her very first class and she tells us “the joy I felt in my first class has stayed with me for the duration of my dancing career.” Kelly has represented Minnesota in Irish dance competition here in the United States and twice in the World Championships. Doing well in the North American Championships will provide Kelly with the opportunity to compete in the 2013 World Championships in Boston. It is Kelly’s dream to perform in a professional Irish dance show and high competitive rankings are an important component of making that dream a reality.
Kelly credits two outstanding teachers with inspiring her to do her best both “in dance and in the greater scope of my life.” Kelly studied with the late Brenda Buckley, whose love for dance and desire to share has inspired Kelly’s plan to pursue her own teaching certificate. Kelly has also been inspired by Corda Mor’s Fauna Gille “to dance my absolute best” and her success in founding a successful competitive yet fun dance program is encouraging for Kelly as well.
Fauna’s and Brenda’s creativity and encouragement have been important influences as Kelly continues to grow as a dancer, and as she pursues her own passion for choreography.
In addition, Kelly tells us that she has been inspired by the superb dancing of Jillian Oury, 2-time All Ireland Champion from Chicago. Kelly tells us that Jillian is “simply a brilliant, captivating dancer” whose “dancing looked so effortless and her true enjoyment of dance always showed through.” Kelly’s enthusiasm for Irish dance shows clearly in her grant application – and on stage.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this dedicated young dancer continue to grow as a dancer and wish her the very best in Chicago!
Rosa Wells is receiving an IMDA Educational Grant to pursue an Irish Gaelic language course at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Rosa, a native of St. Paul, has displayed her passion for many different expressions of Irish culture, including dance, music, and most recently, the Gaelic language.
Rosa learned to play the violin at a young age, and when she was nine years old she took to Irish fiddle music. She plays in a group that performs at several Twin Cities venues, including Merlin’s Rest, Keegan’s, and the Great Northern Irish Pipers’ Club open mic nights. Rosa also took Irish dance lessons in high school at the Scoil na d’Tri Irish Dance Academy.
Rosa recently graduated from Augsburg College, but took Gaelic classes for the past two semesters at the University of St. Thomas, flourishing during the first two levels of the Gaelic language courses. When she is not occupied with her studies and her role as secretary of the Goliard Society of Medievalists, she can be found dancing at the Dubliner.
Rosa’s dream of going to Ireland is coming true this summer, but she relishes the idea of not only going as a tourist—as she puts it, she will be a participant: “ I won’t just be sightseeing learning by reading plaques and guide books. I will be participating in the life of the people of the village and attending classes with other students from all over the world.” Rosa will be taking courses at the University's Irish Language Centre, Carroroe in Connemara and living with a host family who speaks Gaelic. The beautiful region of Connemara is a major Gaeltacht (Irish speaking district). Her classes won’t be limited to language, but will also include history, literature, folklore, singing, and dancing.
After completing her course in Ireland, Rosa will not only be more skilled in the Irish language, but she will also have stretched herself beyond her comfort zone by experiencing another culture in an intimate way. The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to be able to help Rosa grow as a student and a person through her love of the Irish language.